Dollar Stores: Expert Advice for Getting the Best Deals – GOBankingRates

"Miles and Miles of shelves of no-name stationary products, candles, flowers, summer items.

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No matter where you shop these days, you need a strategy to keep the most money in your pocket. Where are the best deals this week? Which store has the best digital coupons? Who marks down meat every morning?

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Shopping at dollar stores requires a system, too, to get the best deals. GOBankingRates asked retail masterminds what approach to take to get the top value when shopping at dollar stores, and they offered wise advice. Read on to learn what approach they say you should take at the dollar store.

Shop Seasonal Items

“Holiday and seasonal items are transitory in nature and do not hold well year from year,” said Heather Kaley, a self-professed “dollar store shopping guru” and mother of three from Winter Garden, Florida.

“Dollar stores have all you need in terms of seasonal or holiday-themed plates, napkins, tablecloths and such. What would cost over $25 at Walmart or Target –, you can get a Christmas tablecloth, some nice holiday napkins, paper plates, and cups for less than $5. This is whether it is beach themed, Christmas themed, Halloween themed or anything else. And, whether you purchased at the big-box or a dollar store, most likely the items are thrown out anyway. Therefore why spend more than you have to?”

Rethink Birthday Items and Decor

Dollar stores stock items that are ideal for party favors for kids’ parties, as well as party bags for small treats. Kaley said dollar stores are an ideal place to turn for general party supplies.

“Even for birthday parties I get my balloons there when possible,” she said. “They have the same colors and mylar designs as a Party City and for anywhere between 60-75% or more, less in cost.”

Steven Frankel, a deal expert at Dealperx.com, agreed.

“Instead of spending $3 to $8 on birthday and holiday cards at my local pharmacy or big-box store, I always get them at the dollar store,” he said. “They have a large selection of high-quality cards and envelopes, and only cost $1.

“Gift packaging is another great item to purchase at your local dollar store. Gift bags tend to go for $3 to $5 at big-box stores, while they are only $1 at my local dollar store.”

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Expand Your Ways to Save

Rebecca Gramuglia, a consumer expert at TopCashback.com, said party supplies are a great place to start – but don’t stop there.

“When it comes to shopping at dollar stores, you can find deals on a variety of goods instead of paying more for them somewhere else,” she said. “Household supplies — i.e. toolkits, buckets, sponges, etc. — and hair accessories — i.e. clips, headbands, etc. — are similarly more costly at specialty stores so opt to purchase them at dollar stores instead for deals.

“But before you shop anywhere, it’s important to check for any applicable coupons or discount codes to ensure you’re getting the best deal — even at dollar stores. And if you shop online, use a cashback site, like TopCashback.com, which offers the highest percentage of your money back on qualifying purchases from retailers, including Dollar Tree. To layer on even more savings, be sure to use a credit card that can earn you cash back or rewards points. Depending on your program, you may be able to apply these rewards as a statement credit towards your next bill.”

Consider Alternatives to Bigger-Ticket Items

Dollar stores stock items such as hammers and picture frames that might prove more than adequate for your purposes. Do you really need an $18 hammer from a home-improvement store to hang a $33 frame from a department store?

For Frankel, the bigger-ticket item he replaces with a dollar-store version is reading glasses.

“Local pharmacies sell reading glasses anywhere from $10 to $20, while they are only $1 at the dollar store and, surprisingly, the quality is very similar,” he said.

Be Willing To Scour the Aisles

The big-box stores invest in manpower to keep the shelves stocked and tidy. Dollar stores have fewer employees who are called upon to do a variety of tasks, and as a result, the stores sometimes aren’t put together as well as the discerning shopper would like.

“Of course, to successfully shop at the dollar store, you have to be willing to dig through the items to find good ones,” Kaley said. “And you have to be prepared to not expect a store as nice and organized as a Target or even your local supermarket and to search through aisles and shelves that have been rummaged and picked through.”

Expanding your shopping circle to include dollar stores will expand your savings, too. Employing the strategies that will help you to key in on the best values will help to create room in your monthly budget.

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.

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